Elena is the Community Manager of CEO Angels Club, co-founder of ESCREO, and passionate about impact investing. She is one of the creators of FEB – a community of female founders promoting female entrepreneurship in Bulgaria. She is a Forbes 30 under 30 alumni and TEDxVitosha ambassador. Elena is a big fan of tennis, likes hiking and from time to time writes in her blog Stubborn penguins can fly. In the article below, she shares her reflections on the trends of angel investing in Europe discussed during the European Business Angels Network summit.
Brussels, the capital of Europe, has been a focal point for policymakers and trendsetters to discuss issues of global importance and launch initiatives with the potential to impact the whole world for the better. It’s not a coincidence, the entity connecting angel networks around Europe European Business Angels Network (EBAN) – is based in Belgium.
In October, Brussels was once again the place where 500 people from around the world met to discuss the development of the ecosystem of Europe angel investors ‘ in both national and international contexts. The European angels’ community got together for a 2-day conference.
Below are the key 3 takeaways of the conference for me.
#1 Angels play a fundamental role in advancing innovation
Commissioner for the Economy Paolo Gentiloni stated:
“Business Angels are crucial in nurturing startups in their earliest and most vulnerable stages. They provide a unique package of finance, mentorship, and networks.”
European angel investment increased by 89.9% from 2020 to 2021, setting a new record with 1,456 Million Euros of investments made last year based on EBAN Statistics Compendium 2021.
Business angel investment represents the biggest share of the early-stage market with an estimated 1.45 Billion Euros of annual investments, equal to approximately 49% of the total market. The number of Europe angel investors has increased by 22% to 39,410 with investments in three key sectors: fintech, health, and enterprise software.
Fintech has been traditionally recognized as one of the most exciting industries to invest in risk investors such as venture capital and angel investors. For the second year in a row, it’s leading in the statistics of the most exciting industry to invest in by angels across Europe. The potential for scaling and numerous opportunities for exit are just some of the reasons fintech is an attractive sector to invest in (Payhawk, the 1st Bulgarian unicorn is also a fintech company). The companies with the highest valuation are fintech (ex. the Swedish Klarna was valued at $ 45.6 billion in 2021, and Revolut – at $ 33 billion).
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, health tech has also become an attractive investment opportunity to explore. Innovative solutions in the field of telemedicine connecting patients and doctors online are booming (ex. One of the CEO Angels Club investments is a health tech – Healthyco). As always, global crises have presented opportunities for entrepreneurs to create products and services to address the challenges in a novel way empowered by technology.
In the CEE region, Serbia and the Czech Republic saw very strong increases in angel investment activity and new investment activity records set.
#2 Women Investors are in the focus, with CEE leading the way
Despite ongoing efforts, the percentage of women in Europe within the angel investment asset class has been stagnant at about 10% over the last decade. Despite the demonstrated higher success rate of women-led startups, these still represent around 1% of the overall capital invested. Diversity and inclusion are essential in the startup and investment ecosystem and that is why EBAN commits to triple the representation of women in the ecosystem by launching a Manifesto For a Gender Balanced Angel Investing Ecosystem. Interestingly enough CEE is showing the highest ratio of women investing as business angels (about 30%). In Western Europe, women angel investors still represent a small fraction of the angel community and account for about 11% of the population.
“You have a lot of women that are acting as mentors – they do what the business angels do, they support the startup, they give them the network, they give them the knowledge, sometimes they give them the money, but they call It mentoring. And that needs to change. We need to establish a professional relationship and it is important for both sides” – Selma Prodanovic, Vice President, Capacity Building Committee Chair, Austrian Angel Investors Association, AUSTRIA.
As a female entrepreneur myself, I have been passionate about female entrepreneurship for quite some time (Co-founder of FEB, co-host of FEB community stories, and co-writer of an illustrative e-book to inspire more girls to pursue a career in entrepreneurship). Some shocking numbers are that all-women founding teams have secured just 0.4% of European venture capital so far in 2022.
One of the reasons is that women don’t have equal access to capital and it’s because the venture capital world is usually a men’s world. Only 10-15% of partners in funds are women. In CEO Angels Club the number is the same.
The lack of enough role models to inspire more women to become entrepreneurs is another deficit I witness in Bulgaria. Due to historical, economic, and social reasons, I believe women entrepreneurs in the countries in our geography still face old-fashioned and prejudiced attitudes from society. Media, which is supposed to play a significant role in setting the stage for equality and diversity has practically lost its function.
#3 Investing with Impact
Impact investing is here to stay. The impact is not just a sexy word you add to a sentence, impact is becoming a core ingredient of every investment. And it’s not only enough to align your investment strategy with the SDGs – the next challenge is how you measure and monitor it and speak the same language with the other stakeholders involved. The Upright Project, for example, is the world’s first open-access impact data platform which enables smarter decision-making for investors, companies, and governments by quantifying the net impact of companies.
Europe is still lagging behind North America, but nurturing investor and startup networks across Europe, embracing collaboration and the “let’s do it together” culture, harmonizing legislative frameworks across Member States, bringing down the barriers to starting new businesses, using technology as an enabler for Europe angel investors to increase their investment activity and strengthening the relationships between universities/research centers and private investors can give an edge to the Old Continent.